'No advances' in Aboriginal education

24th March 2006

THERE have been little or no advances in Aboriginal education in 30 years, a West Australian study has found.

Aboriginal students start school well behind non-Aboriginal children and the gap widens the longer they stay at school, the researchers said.

Perth's Telethon Institute for Child Health Research looked at data from more than 2500 WA students in what it says is the most comprehensive survey ever taken of Aboriginal education.

Chief investigator Steve Zubrick said the study showed Aboriginal education urgently needed a major overhaul.

"Many of the programs to support Aboriginal children start in late primary or high school by which time the gap in performance between Aboriginal children and others is simply too great," Professor Zubrick said.

"It is clear that it is a matter of too little too late."

The focus needed to shift to the early years of child development to help Aboriginal children be ready, socially and academically, to learn at school, he said.

The study found 58 per cent of Aboriginal children were rated by their teachers as having low academic performance, compared to 19 per cent for their non-Aboriginal children.

Only a quarter of Aboriginal children starting year eight go on to finish year 12 and of those who do start year 11, just 22 per cent complete their final year, compared to 62 per cent of all students.